Host Nation South Africa Defeats USWNT in Final Pool Match of FIH Hockey World League Semifinals

Images courtesy of Rodrigo Jaramillo and Getty Images/FIH

July 16, 2017, 11:52 a.m. (ET)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – July 16, 2017 – A packed stadium at the University of Wits venue welcomed the U.S. Women’s National Team and host nation and FIH Hero World Ranked No. 13 South Africa in their fourth and final pool play match. A lot was on the line for both teams, as it was a must with for South Africa to advance to crossovers, and USA needed the points for final pool placement in the quarterfinal round. Finishing the first half tied at 1-1, South Africa came back and produced two goals within a two-minute span to earn the 3-2 victory over USA.

Both teams hit the field quick in the first quarter, tallying multiple shots on target. A close chance came for USA in the 2nd minute, when Jill Witmer (Lancaster, Pa.) used her speed and stick skills to find room and rip a shot on goal. South Africa responded with a circle penetration of their own, and a few chances after but USA goalkeeper Jackie Briggs (Robesonia, Pa.) was there to make the saves. For a period, South Africa tested USA’s defense but the constant communication and proper positioning paid off in the 14th minute Melissa Gonzalez (Mohegan Lake, N.Y.) took the ball to the top of the circle, turned her defender and ripped a backhand shot into the goal to give USA a 1-0 lead.

USA started fast in the second quarter moving possession up field and getting a good look off a hard cross. A few more circle entries came but South Africa’s defensive unit limited USA from breaking past circle line. In the 26th minute, South Africa took a 16-yard ball quick, displayed good ball movement to get it down field and behind USA’s defense. The cross into the circle found South Africa striker Jade Mayne on the far post who put in the equalizer to make it 1-1. For the remainder of the quarter, both teams saw chances on goal but the score line stood. 

Thirty minutes stood between the outcome of the match as well as the quarterfinal line-up. With patience, USA transferred the ball around the backfield and into pockets. Ball movement continued to be forward and with purpose but South Africa’s defense limited any USA threatening chance. South Africa turned the tables for a period where they battered USA’s defense but the ball was cleared up field to Kat Sharkey (Moosic, Pa.) who moved it with speed. Constant attack paid off in the 44th minute when Katelyn Ginolfi (Lewes, Del.) gathered possession at the top of the circle, took a backhand and Witmer was there to touch it around South Africa’s goalkeeper to make it USA 2, South Africa 1 to finish out the quarter.

South Africa was determined in the fourth quarter and kick started a rally after USA’s Witmer was given a green card in the 47th minute. Two minutes following, South Africa threw an overhead that got in behind USA’s defense. The ball was picked up by a striker who passed it to a well-positioned Candice Manuel who deflected it in to tie the match. A minute after that, South Africa again took advantage of USA’s poor marking threaded the ball behind the defense to an open Manuel whose backhand shot went past USA’s goalkeeper Briggs to make it USA 2, South Africa 3. Double 5-minute yellow cards were given to USA’s Michelle Vittese (Cherry Hill, N.J.) and South Africa’s Manuel at the 54th minute mark and a green card was awarded to South African’s Lilian Plessis a minute after that. USA fought hard as time ticked down but were unable to find the equalizer as South Africa would earn the 3-2 victory.

After preliminary round play, Team USA finished in the second position in Pool B. Quarterfinal play will start on Tuesday, July 18 for the U.S. Women's National as they face Japan at 5:15 a.m. EST. For more information on the event including schedule, results and live stream, visit the FIH Hockey World League Semifinals event page on usafieldhockey.com. All USWNT games can be watched on the live broadcast provided by ESPN3/Watch EPSN. 

Pool B Results (Final)
Team Played Wins Draws Losses GF GA GD Points
Argentina 4 4 0 0 12 1 11 12
USA 4 2 0 2 7 8 -1 6
South Africa 4 1 1 2 4 6 -2 4
India 4 1 1 2 2 7 -5 4
Chile 4 1 0 3 1 4 -3 3